Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Cloud Player

With so much hype surrounding online storage these past couple of years, a normal person wouldn’t really expect Amazon to jump into this service. Amazon is mainly known as one of the biggest online suppliers in the world but we do live in a strange time and place so it’s not uncommon for big companies to branch out and look into other venues for extra revenue. Amazon is already a globally recognized name so why not expand on their business in hopes that user will choose them over other less known competitors? A service you don’t provide today is a service provided by a competitor and with that comes a loss of money to be earned. Anyways, Amazon already jumped into the online storage game a few years ago with their S3 web service. However, that service wasn’t really meant for the general consumers but more for developers and other companies looking to offload their data to the web. If I’m not mistaken, the popular online synching service Dropbox uses Amazon’s S3 cloud service to store user’s data. Jump forward to the present and Amazon has finally released their version of online storage for the masses. This service is called Cloud Drive.

What is Cloud Drive?

Cloud Drive

Cloud Drive is essentially just a basic online storage location for your music, documents and photos. Think of it as just having your own personal online hard drive that is being hosted online by Amazon. As long as Amazon is up and running, you’ll be able to access your data anywhere and from any computer as long as you are able to go online. As for now, there’s really nothing that special about it as say compared to Dropbox. However, to be fair to Amazon, Cloud Drive is not meant to be a synching service in the first place. Therefore, what makes a user want to use Cloud Drive over other similar services? Well for one, Amazon is giving every user 5 free GBs of online storage with Cloud Drive! 5GB is a lot when compared to just 2GB offered via Dropbox (although you can easily expand on that by referring new users and whatnot). But remember though, Cloud Drive is not a synching service. Where Dropbox can be considered dynamic, Cloud Drive seems more static in nature. If anything, Cloud Drive can be compared to Microsoft’s Skydrive, although the latter offers an insane 25GB of free storage. Need even more than that? How about ADrive’s 50GB?! Clearly, Cloud Drive isn’t going to win anytime soon for the amount of free storage it gives to its users but 5GB is still plenty generous. For seconds, if you’re a big fan of music and purchase your MP3’s via Amazon’s MP3 Store, you’ll be glad to know that once you sign up for Cloud Drive, Amazon will safely store a copy of your newly purchased digital music and store it there all without incurring on your normal limit! Also, once your music is stored in Cloud Drive, you can then play them anywhere via Cloud Player, which I’ll talk about in the second half. If 5GB of online storage space is too little, Amazon will gladly offer more if you are willing to pay a price of course. Their pricing scheme is basically $1 per gigabyte of online storage with a maximum of up to 1000GB.

Storage Plan Rates

As a promotional offer, Amazon is willing to upgrade your storage limit from 5GB to 20GB for free for the first year as long as you purchase an music album from their MP3 Store. At the end of that year, if you want to keep that 20GB of storage space, you’ll then need to pay up. If not, then you’ll be reverted back to the basic 5GB plan.

How to Use Cloud Drive

Alright so let’s now see how we can begin using Cloud Drive from Amazon. From Cloud Drive’s main webpage, simply click on the Get Started button to well, get started! As soon as I was signed in, I was presented with the main interface of Cloud Drive! That was it! If this process wasn’t simple enough, I really don’t know what could qualify for that!

Main Window

The management interface for Cloud Drive is very simplistic. At the very top you have a big yellow Upload Files button which will prompt you to consent to Amazon’s terms of use before being able to upload files.

As always, storing your personal data by using a third-party service is exactly that: You Are Using a Third-Party Service! Your data is at the mercy of the provider and just like with pretty much everything else these days, Sh** Happens! Although Amazon is a reputable company which promises a very good up-time, that doesn’t mean one day an employee can’t just accidentally push a button and erase your data. If you have top secret documents you don’t want anyone else to see, then it’s very simple: Don’t Upload It! Do not expect a right to privacy just because you think you are somehow a “special case” and that you are entitled to it. You’re not. Simple as that. With that being said however, Amazon is still required to take due diligence in protecting user’s data so rest assure that your data is somewhat protected to a certain degree. Just remember that once a file has been uploaded, in almost all cases, the service provider now becomes the co-owner of that data! No matter how much protection is being touted, that much cannot be changed. I’m sure that’s not exactly the right way of putting things into perspective but I’m sure you get what I’m trying to point out.

Below that is a couple of links which allows you to view your uploaded files, your Amazon Mp3 purchases and files in your trash bin. Beneath that is your main area to categorize and view your data. Currently, you only have four default folders labeled Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. I don’t believe you can at the time create a custom parent folder here. However, you are allowed to create sub-folders beneath these four default folders. Finally at the very bottom, you have a simple percentage bar view of your used storage along with the ability to purchase additional storage.

Navigation Links

So how easy is it to upload files? Let’s find out right now. As soon as you select the yellow Upload Files button, you’ll be presented with a mini-window asking you which folder/sub-folder you want to place the uploaded file to. After selecting the destination, hit the big yellow “Select files to upload” button to browse for your data on your local computer. You can select multiple files to upload by holding down the Ctrl key and selecting your files. As mentioned here, each individual file is limited to 2GB in size. This should suffice for almost every casual home user.

Upload Window

After selecting your files, Cloud Drive will begin to immediately upload them to the cloud. There will be a little indicator at the top to let you know the progress of the upload but if you want more details, click on the See Upload Details link. Once the upload completes, you should then see the files by heading over to the appropriate folder destination you chose earlier to store those files.

Uploading

Once you are in the folder with your files uploaded, there only a couple of basic actions you can perform on them. These includes downloading it, deleting it, moving and copying it to another folder destination, and renaming the item selected. That’s pretty much it. You can also opt to create a new sub-folder under the parent folder. However, there is no drag-and-drop interface here. If you need to move 10 files to another sub-folder, you’ll need to first place a check-mark next the individual files (to indicate it as selected), click on the More Actions button, select Move or Copy Items option link and then finally selecting the appropriate destination folder from the pop-up window. Maybe in the future Amazon will give users the option for a drag-and-drop interface.

Management

Managing the various types of files you upload to Cloud Drive is pretty much the same ordeal every time. Remember, Cloud Drive is a simple online backup service. You’re not going to have an option to create various photo galleries with your photos or trim and cut that video you have uploaded.

You can get more information about Amazon’s Cloud Drive service by vising their help and FAQ pages.

Amazon Cloud Player

Cloud Player

Another online service launched with Cloud Drive is Amazon’s Cloud Player. Think of it as your own personal online music player. The purpose of this service is to allow users to be able to play back their music collection on basically any computer connected online via a browser. You can either upload your music via Cloud Drive or in Cloud Player’s interface. However, the latter requires you to use Amazon’s Adobe Air application. If you want to forgo the app installation, you’ll need to upload all of your music via Cloud Drive’s interface instead. Currently, the service is lacking seriously in the supported formats department. You are only able to upload unprotected Mp3s and AAC files. However, this shouldn’t be a very big problem for most users as MP3 is pretty much the standard format for digital music anyways. Hardcore audiophiles might balk at this limitation so their only hope is for Amazon to add in other format support and features in the future for Cloud Player. These two services have just recently launched at the time of this writing so give it some time to grow as Amazon I’m sure will continue to listen to user feedback and improve the services.

The interface for Cloud Player is pretty much the same as Cloud Drive in that it is simplistic and that you really can’t get lost in it. Your main task is to upload and categorize your  music library collection. The navigation is not hard to figure out. You have assorted links to help you sort your music collection by Songs, Albums, Artists, and Genres. You are able to create a playlist so that’s good news indeed. Don’t even think about being able to tag your music here. I’m hoping that feature will be available in a future update. The actual music player is as simple as it gets. You have your standard buttons of last track, play, next track, volume control, shuffle all and repeat all.

Player Controls

With such a minimalistic interface, finding your way around your music collection is pretty easy due to the different sort views. I usually find the music I want to listen to by album view so I was really glad Cloud Player displayed cover arts as shown here. Clicking on any of the album will allow you to view all the songs within that album. Or you could simply start playing the entire album by clicking on the little play button.

Album View

As far as song management goes, you’re once again limited on what you’re able to do: add to playlist, download and deletion. One small problem I see is being able to download your songs to your computer. As you can already guess, this might have some legal issues. Unless Amazon has some prevention in place, what’s stopping someone from sharing his/her Amazon account log-in information with another individual and having that second individual download songs which they don’t own themselves onto their own computer? Since Cloud Player only accepts DRM-free songs, that second individual now has a complete copy of the song they have downloaded and can now do with it however they see fit since there is not restriction in place.

You can get more information on Amazon’s Cloud Player service by visiting their help and FAQ pages.

In the End…

Amazon’s consumer entry into the cloud storage game is mediocre at best when compared to other participants such as Microsoft’s Skydrive and Dropbox. However, if you are looking for a no frills online storage location to help store your important documents and files, Amazon’s Cloud Drive can serve its purpose there. It’s amazingly easy to get set up and started. In fact, the only requirement is that you have an Amazon account! Although I have been spoiled by the likes of Dropbox, I can definitely recommend Cloud Drive to many other users I know. As an online storage service, you need to think of it as another way to safe keep your files. I wrote numerous articles in the past about how anyone can never again have to worry about losing another document if they just incorporate some type of data backup plan. Well, Cloud Drive is another type of backup plan. It’s up to you, the user, whether to use it or not. My immediate future hopes for Cloud Drive is not that complicated. A better upload system would definitely help a lot. Like Dropbox, a stand-alone utility or application to allow users to upload files to their Cloud Drive account directly from their desktop is a major benefit. Better yet, incorporate some type of auto-upload mechanism so that every file that gets placed inside a specific folder on our desktop would get uploaded to a specific folder on Cloud Drive automatically and vice-versa for file deletions.

Amazon’s Cloud Player, although the concept is nothing new, definitely have its uses and benefits. Users and music lovers alike I’m sure want to be able to play their music collection no matter where they are and Cloud Player helps at achieving that. Although the interface doesn’t have a lot going on with it, the main point is being able to easily find your music and being able to play them from any computer and smart phone.

Many users are speculating that both of these recently launched online services from Amazon is a sign of bigger things to come from the giant online retailer. Are they coming out with their own tablet? Smart phone? Whatever the case may be, I’m a big fan of Amazon as I do a lot (and I mean a whole damn lot) of shopping from there so it’s good to see them offering other services to their user fan base.

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